‘I asked for the next open Bodega bus we passed’

Dear Diary:

During my 20s, I lived alone in Manhattan. I have two cats, which my siblings and I adopted as kittens. Between work and play schedules, I know there will be times when they need each other to work together.

One night, when I got home late, it wasn’t until I was in the taxi that I realized I had forgotten to get my very special cats’ favorite food. I asked the taxi driver to stop at the next open bodega we passed so I could buy some.

He refused my request, saying it was unnecessary to stop.

I’m not arguing, thinking I’ll just walk to the local late-night spot a few blocks away when I get home.

After stopping in front of my building, I got out of the car and so did the driver. He opened the box and there it was: a container full of cat food. He gave me two cans.

“No charge,” he said.

It’s my cats’ favorite brand.

– Robin Hoffmann

Dear Diary:

It was New York University’s graduation day in 1995. Hundreds of us sat in the heat in Washington Square Park, wearing purple synthetic robes and stucco while we waited for our degrees.

L. Jay Oliva, chancellor of the university, and inaugural speakers and honorary recipients including Kitty Carlisle Hart, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Clifford Glenwood Shull, Jankarel Gevers and Sidney Poitier all delivered eloquent comments.

Then Neil Diamond took the stage. He wondered aloud why he, of all these educated and accomplished people, had been invited. Perhaps, he mused, it was because he could carry a tune.

Then he goes to “Louie Louie.”

I still choke when I think about it.

– Liza Davis

Dear Diary:

I grew up in an apartment building across from Queens College. The playground is a wonder, with monkey bars, a wooden wall and benches around the base of a giant oak tree, where elderly women spend their days in the shade.

There was a boy who loved to throw a tennis ball in the air as high as he could while we played around him.

Once, a praying mantis perched on the asphalt. Everyone ran over to look at it.

A child said that you will be fined $50 if you kill a mantis. Fifty dollars was all the money in the world to us, so we gave that insect plenty of room, while marveling at its alien-like features.

Of course, the inevitable happened: The tennis ball, which was flying towards the moon, fell directly into the bug.

We all spread out as quickly as we could, and I spent the rest of the day hiding in my room, waiting for a knock on the door that I was sure would come.

– Jack Reed

Dear Diary:

My husband and I had just left the Museum of Modern Art when it started to rain. We hope the rain won’t turn into a downpour because we don’t have an umbrella.

Crossing the street, we saw a strange man and woman approaching us with a smile on their faces.

“Here,” the woman said, extending an umbrella toward us. “We’re on our way home and taking the subway.”

We thank them, and they head towards the train station. My husband lifted the umbrella over our heads.

“Oh my,” he said. “It’s a really good umbrella.”

As we waited at the bus stop, a couple who appeared to be tourists passed us without any protection in the pouring rain.

“Here,” I said, extending my arms to the umbrella. “Our bus just arrived.”

– Cheryl Rosenberg

Dear Diary:

I’m on 125th Street and in a hurry. I need to know how late I ran and didn’t have a clock. I saw a man with one and asked if he had time.

“What,” he said, “we both bought this watch?”

Surprised by his answer, I paused. He also stopped and stood there facing me.

“Because I remember buying this watch,” he said, “and I don’t remember you being there with half the money.”

Unable to keep his composure, he let out a laugh he had managed to contain.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Someone said that to me once, and I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. I just thought I would share. “

He walked away laughing, leaving me with a new answer if anyone ever stopped me on the street with the same question.

– Patrick Cornbill

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